A new report released by the Institute for Fiscal Studies reveals older staff, particularly people over the age of 60, are in a precarious position now that the furlough scheme has ended.

As of today, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has drawn to a close, representing the end of a scheme which supported a total of 11.6 million workers since March 2020.

Now that the scheme has ended, new research by IFS warns that older staff are particularly at risk when it comes to finding a new job.

Recent statistics regarding the furlough scheme showed that close to one in 10 workers (7 per cent) still on the scheme in July were over the age of 60. This was the highest of any age group, showing older workers are particularly vulnerable to not being retained by employers.

Alongside this, data shows that it may be harder for older staff to find employment, especially compared to younger workers.

Only just over a third (35 per cent) of workers aged 50 and older had refound work six months after being made redundant during the pandemic, compared with two-thirds (64 per cent) of workers aged 18–49.

It appears this pandemic has also worsened this trend as the rate of older workers finding jobs again has declined compared to the three years before the crisis.

Staff over the age of 60 are also exiting the labour market at a high rate compared to other age groups.

Of the older workers over 60 who were made redundant during the pandemic, over half (58 per cent) were neither in, nor searching for paid work, compared to over a third (38 per cent) in the three years prior.

Ultimately, people who are older may be being forced into an early retirement due to the circumstances that the pandemic has created.

Another group that has been identified as particularly vulnerable following the end of the scheme is workers in London.

Londoners accounted for close to a fifth (16 per cent) of the redundancies which occurred throughout the pandemic, creating competition between those who became redundant during the pandemic and people who were laid off after the furlough scheme ended.

The rate of staff in London finding work after being made redundant (44 per cent) was also significantly lower than staff in the rest of the country (58 per cent).

Finally, workers based in the capital accounted for a fifth (19 per cent) of those furloughed in July 2021, despite comprising only 14 per cent of total employees.

As such, the IFS advises any additional government resources and attention might be better focused on supporting other groups, such as older workers and those living in London.

Adam Salisbury, a Research Economist at IFS and an author of the report, commented:

Despite the protection of the furlough scheme, the pandemic has hit London hard.

London had higher-than-average furlough rates this summer, higher redundancies and lower chances of finding new work after redundancy.

It has also not seen the very large rises in vacancies seen in most parts of the UK. All this combines to leave Londoners at higher risk of longer-term unemployment, even while the picture at the national level is a lot better than expected at the beginning of the year.

Jonathan Cribb, a Senior Research Economist at IFS and an author of the report, also explained the plight of older workers:

Recessions always create risks for older workers, particularly because if older workers lose their jobs there is a risk they may never return to work.

Unfortunately, there is evidence that may be happening now.

The chances of over-60s finding new work within six months of redundancy have plummeted and the majority of those older workers that lost their jobs during the pandemic were not actively searching for work. Given this, the government should consider opening its ‘Restart’ scheme to all people out of work, not just those on universal credit.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.